At last, the fifth inning arrived and the Royals regulars could depart the dugout. Monday’s 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers was tedious, the sort of late-spring contest that tests the limits of even a professional’s patience.
Allowed to exit, a gang of Kansas City starters escaped the 93-degree heat for the air-conditioned freedom of the clubhouse.
Alex Gordon diverted from the pack and jogged to his post in left field. Offseason surgery on his right wrist kept him out of action for the first two weeks of Cactus League competition. He must recoup missed time now, when opening day feels close enough to touch.
Gordon stayed in the game for one more inning. It was long enough to launch his first home run of the spring. He lifted an 83-mph sinker from Texas southpaw Alex Claudio over the right field-fence. Gordon rounded the bases, gathered his gear and headed for the exit as soon as the sixth inning ended.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can in a limited time right now to get ready for the season,” Gordon said. “I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of getting my work in and getting my at-bats in. So that’s been good.”
The Royals charted a conservative path for Gordon from the operating table to opening day. He did not start a hitting program until he arrived in Arizona. He sat out for a week longer than he initially expected. The team saw little reason to rush their highest-paid, highly decorated two-time All-Star back to the field.
Gordon has dealt with some bouts of soreness in his return to action. He classified this as an expected occurrence.
“The whole point was to just make the wrist feel normal again,” Gordon said. “And that’s what it feels like right now. Even when I started taking at-bats, it was still a little sore, but it was more just scar tissue and swelling. It’s starting to feel good now. I think our main focus was to just come back healthy.”
Monday marked Gordon’s eighth game of the spring. Before he homered, he collected two singles, which pushed his hit total for the spring to six. He is batting .214.
“He’s still getting his timing and stuff,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s going to be fine. The big thing is that he’s not hurting. He’ll be a little sore sometimes coming in (in the morning). But it loosens up real quick. Back to normal. So that’s a good sign.”
Yost figures Gordon will require an extra day or two off once the season begins. The team already intends to use Jarrod Dyson to spell Lorenzo Cain on occasion. So the presence of a fifth outfielder on the roster makes sense. The team is debating between Paulo Orlando, Moises Sierra and Whit Merrifield.
Yost said Gordon had experienced soreness on some mornings after playing the day before. Yost considered scratching him from the lineup on March 26, a day game after a night game, but Gordon reported that he felt better as the day progressed and played in the game.
Gordon, meanwhile, does not believe he will need such rest once the season starts.
“Right now, it’s feeling good, every day,” he said. “No problems. So that’s a plus.”